President Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will divert $385 million in funds from programs including Head Start, Alzheimer’s care and HIV and cancer prevention in order to house the growing number of unaccompanied migrant children in its care.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar told Congressional appropriators in letters this week that his agency will reallocate millions of dollars from some of its health programs to increase shelter capacity for the “overwhelming number” of migrant children.
Azar argued that his agency needs to reallocate funds from other programs to pay for more space as HHS’s shelters are nearly full.
HHS plans to divert up to $286 million from health programs that fund Head Start, Alzheimer’s care and cancer prevention.
The Hill reports that most of the money will come from the Administration for Children and Families, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health.
Azar noted that up to $99 million will be reallocated from the refugee and entrants assistance program.
An HHS spokesperson argued that the funds that will be reallocated are unobligated, meaning they were appropriated by Congress but have not yet been used by the department.
But Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee’s health panel, accused HHS of “robbing vital health and human services initiatives in order to pay for their failed policies.”
“We cannot continue to spend taxpayer dollars on the President’s manufactured crisis at the border, which is government-sanctioned child abuse,” DeLauro said in a statement.
Coalition for Health Funding Executive Director Emily Holubowich issued the following statement in response to Azar’s letter to the House Appropriations Committee about the Department’s intention to transfer another $385 million from health programs to the Office of Refugee Resettlement:
The administration’s immigration policies continue to take a toll on the health of migrant children and families. Earlier this week, we learned more about the extensive abuse—including sexual abuse—of children in the government’s care who, as a result, will be at increased risk of mental and physical health complications throughout their lives. Today we learned that an additional $385 million will be cut from public health and research to fund these failed policies.
Last October, the Coalition for Health Funding sent HHS a letter on behalf of 110 health organizations expressing deep concerns about the impact of the administration’s policies on these children’s health and well-being, and about the impact of these funding transfers on chronically underfunded health programs. We urged the Department to make public its plan to respond to and recover from this public health crisis and avoid future funding transfers. We received no response.
The public health community is in the midst of responding to a series of crises throughout the country, including a measles outbreak and addiction epidemic, and every dollar counts. Additional funding, not less, is what is required to improve and protect the health of the population. In total, HHS has diverted nearly a billion dollars from the discovery of cures, outbreak response, and access to critical preventive and primary care services. Public health and research programs cannot continue to bear the burden of paying for an immigration policy that harms children and families.